How to Tell if a SHELTER Dog is Housebroken

Are you thinking about adding a dog to your family but worried that you might be unable to housebreak him?

Or maybe you have already brought home a new shelter dog and are not sure if he is housebroken or not.

In this post, we’ll show you how to tell if a shelter dog is housebroken and share some tips for housetraining them.

Why it’s Important to Know

Housetraining a dog can be a lot of work, especially for an adult dog.
If you aren’t able or willing to put the time and effort into housetraining a dog, it can be helpful to know before you adopt.

Before you adopt a shelter dog, it’s important to know if they are housebroken for a few reasons.

  • It will make the transition into your home much easier for you and the dog if they know how to go to the bathroom outside.
  • It will be less work for you in the long run if the dog is already trained.
  • It may be more challenging to train a rescue dog who isn’t used to going outside.
  • It’s more pleasant for everyone involved if the dog doesn’t have accidents in the house.

Read More: What is a Rescue Pet? Learn more about rescue dogs in this guide!

How to Tell if a Shelter Dog is Housebroken

Adopting a shelter dog can be a very rewarding experience. Not only are you giving a homeless animal a loving home, but you’re also getting a new best friend.

However, before you adopt, it’s important to ensure the dog is housebroken.

Housebreaking a dog takes time, patience, and consistency, and it’s much easier to adopt a dog who already knows the rules of the house.

There are some things to look for when determining if a shelter dog is housebroken or not.

  • The dog should be able to hold its bladder for several hours. If the dog constantly asks to go out or has accidents in its crate, it’s probably not fully housebroken.
  • The dog should also be comfortable around people and other animals. A dog barking, lunging, or cowering in the corner is probably not housebroken.

If you’re unsure whether or not a shelter dog is housebroken, ask a staff member or trainer for help.

They will be able to give you more information about the dog’s history and how well they respond to training.

How to Housebreak a Shelter Dog

If you're willing to put in the time, housebreaking a shelter dog can be easy.
With time, consistency, and care, you can housebreak a shelter dog.

Here are a few tips on how to help a shelter dog become housebroken:

Get your dog on a regular potty schedule

Take them out first thing in the morning, after naps and meals, and before bedtime.

It’s essential to be consistent with this so that your dog knows when they’re supposed to go.

If you need additional help, check out our puppy potty training schedule.

Pay attention to your dog’s body language

They may start sniffing or circling before they go, so if you see your dog doing this, it’s time to take them outside.

Be patient and praise your dog when they do go potty outside. This will reinforce the behavior you want them to learn.

Never punish your dog for accidents inside. This will only make them scared and confused and won’t help them learn any faster.

Just clean up the mess and move on.

Watch this video for more tips on how to potty train your new rescue dog:

Read More: Best Puppy Pads. Puppy pads can be useful for potty training and prevent accidents from ruining your floors.

If Your Dog Has an Accident in the House

If your dog has an accident, you can do a few things to clean it up and help prevent future accidents.

  • First, remove any solid waste with a paper towel or pick-up bag.
  • Then, soak up as much urine as possible with a second paper towel or rag.
  • Once you have soaked up as much liquid as possible, apply a pet odor remover or white vinegar to the area and allow it to soak in for a few minutes.
  • Finally, rinse the area with clean water and blot dry.

PRO TIP: Blot rather than scrub, as scrubbing can spread the urine and make the stain larger.

If your dog has multiple accidents in the house, determine the cause.

A medical condition such as a urinary tract infection can cause increased urination and accidents.

Or, your dog may not be fully housebroken yet.

If this is the case, patience and consistency are key.

With proper training and supervision, most dogs can learn to use the bathroom outside without incident.

Read More: Best Indoor Dog Potty. These are great for elderly dogs, puppy training, and apartments! Learn more.


While there is no foolproof way to determine with 100 percent accuracy whether or not a dog is housebroken, you can make an educated guess by following the tips in this article.

Remember that some dogs may take longer than others to housetrain, so if you adopt a dog from a shelter, be patient and consistent with your training methods.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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